Friday, March 30, 2018

Diary briefs

Richard Pryor’s diaries to be published - Vulture

Miles Franklin’s secret diary - The Sydney Morning Herald, Daily Liberal

William Steinway’s diary online - Smithsonian, Wall Street Journal

RAF chaplain’s WWII diary - Imperial War Museum, The Telegraph

US army medic’s diary - The Washington Post

Rothenstein in the Art World - The Guardian

Poland’s Anne Frank - Mail Online

Harrowing WWI diary up for auction - Mail Online

Rumors of a Hope Hicks diary - Business Insider, The Week

Tamil writer’s diaries digitalised - The Hindu

Jan Morris’s diaries to be published - Bookseller

Excerpts from Yasser Arafat’s diaries - Haaretz, Tablet, Times of Israel

Secret diaries in Aussie murder case -, Mail Online

Civil war POW diary online - William & Mary

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Kathleen Scott as diarist

Kathleen Scott, Baroness Kennet, was born 130 years ago today. She lived an extraordinary life, a friend of Auguste Rodin, Isidora Duncan, George Bernard Shaw, Herbert Asquith - to name but a few. She was also a highly regarded sculptor, perhaps the most significant British woman sculptor before Barbara Hepworth. She was married to Captain Robert Scott, he who died during his second Antarctic expedition, and subsequently to politician Hilton Young. For 35 years she kept private diaries - colourful, interesting and informative - which have only recently been opened to the public. It’s time for these to be edited and published.

Kathleen Bruce was born on 27 March 1878 in Lindrick, Nottinghamshire, the youngest of eleven children in a clergyman’s family. She was orphaned at the age of 8, and was brought up in Edinburgh by her great-uncle, an historian. She attended boarding schools in England, and went on to study at Slade School of Fine Art in London. Seeking a higher level of instruction in sculpture she moved to Paris in 1902 to enrol at the Académie Colarossi. She remained in Paris until 1906, living a Bohemian life, befriended by Auguste Rodin and Isadora Duncan among many other now-famous names. Back in London, she was embraced by the city’s literary and artistic society, George Bernard Shaw, for example, and Max Beerbohm. Before long she had met Captain Robert Falcon Scott (see Race to the South Pole) whom she marred in 1908. They had one son, Peter, who became an ornithologist and conservationist - see Scott’s wild goose chase.

The marriage was to prove all too brief as Robert Scott died in 1912 during his ill-fated second expedition to the Antarctic. Following his death, Kathleen did much to glorify her husband’s legacy, not least with a bronze statue of him completed in 1915 (now in Waterloo Place, London). During the war she took on various roles: helping set up an ambulance service in northern France, acting as a private secretary in the Ministry of Pensions, and creating models to help with facial reconstruction for the wounded. She remained oddly opposed to women’s suffrage, but Mark Stocker, author of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry about her, says this side of her was ‘founded partly on Victorian conservatism and partly on dislike of special pleading’.

In 1922, Scott married the politician Edward Hilton Young, and they had one son. She continued to sculpt, mostly busts and statuettes of eminent male contemporaries or idealistic youths. Four of her models were prime ministers, and she had many other famous friends besides. The diarist James Lees-Milne observed that there ‘seemed to be no public figure with whom she was not on intimate terms’. Stocker comments: ‘The products of such friendships are vigorously modelled busts and statuettes which provide a valuable visual record of contemporary celebrities’. In 1935, Young was raised to the Peerage as Baron Kennet, though Baroness Kennet continued to work professionally under the name of Scott.

According to Stocker: ‘By the end of Kathleen’s life her output had slowed, and she appeared increasingly stylistically reactionary. Her unrelenting hostility towards the sculpture of Jacob Epstein, Frank Dobson, and Henry Moore compounded this view and helps to explain why her work has been accorded less art historical recognition than it deserves. While the comparison would not have appealed to either of them, Kathleen Scott was the most significant and prolific British woman sculptor before Barbara Hepworth.’ She died in 1947. Apart from the ODNB (log-in required) which has by far the most comprehensive bio online, some further information is available at Wikipedia, with almost nothing more elsewhere.

Kathleen Kennet kept diaries for much of her adult life. She used a few extracts for her own autobiography written in 1932. This was published posthumously by John Murray in 1949 as Self-Portrait of an Artist. This has long been out of print, but more recently, in 1995, Macmillan published A Great Task of Happiness: The Life of Kathleen Scott, by Kennet’s granddaughter, Louisa Young, which relies on many extracts from her grandmother’s diaries. In the introduction, Young explains: ‘She started them for Con when he went South; they were to be a record for him of their son and of her day-to-day activities. After she learnt that Con was not coming back she kept them up. No one knew she did.’

Young also enthuses over the content of the diaries: ‘Her handwriting races along, illegible unless you really practise reading it, recording adventures, anecdotes and observations, interspersed with photographs and little sketches, from 1910 to 1946. They cover politics and exploration, art and sex, literature and travel. Mexican trains and plastic surgery, love and death, folly and creativity, child-birth and flying, iguanas and vicars and eating chicken sandwiches out of her coronet at the coronation of King George VI. They notably lack self-absorption, self-pity and self-indulgence.’

Two years ago, in April 2016, University of Cambridge announced that Kennet’s diaries would, from then on, be available to researchers in its library. This followed a deal with the government through the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme, under which £400,000 of inheritance tax was offset against the transfer of a large number of Kennet papers, including Kathleen’s diaries, into the public domain. At the time, the university put out a press release, rather dismissively referring to her in the headline as ‘Captain Scott’s widow’. The press release stated: ‘Of particular importance are the papers and letters relating to [Kathleen’s] first husband Captain Robert Falcon Scott. Together with her diaries covering the period of Scott’s last Antarctic expedition, the material is of the utmost interest for our understanding of the legendary explorer. The papers also reflect the fascinating careers, interests and connections of Lord and Lady Kennet and are of importance for the study of British military and political history, as well as of literary and cultural attitudes and concerns during the first half of the 20th century.’

Hopefully, Kathleen Kennet’s colourful and fascinating diaries might now receive some serious attention, and be edited for publication. She is little remembered today as a sculptor, and her importance as a diarist has never even be considered; but, her less-than-progressive positions on social issues should be no barrier to attention from biography specialists. The following extracts from Kennet’s diaries are taken from A Great Task of Happiness. Some pages of the book can also be read online at Amazon and Googlebooks.

19 January 1911
‘At the end of lunch he told me quite casually that that morning he had come upon a 2nd dynasty tomb, about 3600, probably the earliest ever found. He said he had left the sarcophagus untouched as he thought I might like to help him uncover it. I was of course most awfully excited. Together we descended a shaft, rather a climb, and there was the sarcophagus, a large wooden box, much eaten by white ants. We had to prop up the sides with sods before he dared lift off the lid. We found three mummies inside, greatly decayed and indeed little left but bones. They had been buried in a contracted position. One set of bones was to be sent to a professor at the museum at Manchester. He numbered each set of bones. I helped him. As I was lifting out one of the heads he said “I suppose you know how to prevent the teeth falling out of the lower jaw?” As though I’d been at it all my life! It was a great burial place and there were many tombs of varying dates up till comparatively recent times. We hoped to find jewels or papyrus in our tomb, but there were neither. Mr Bruce sat at the top of the hole, smoking and regarding us as harmless lunatics. I did enjoy myself.’

20 September 1911
‘Rather a horrid day today. I woke up having had a bad dream about you, and then Peter came very close to me and said emphatically “Daddy won’t come back”, as though in answer to my silly thoughts. By the time you read this you will probably be comfortably lounging in an armchair on a P&O near Colombo or somethaing and will say contentedly “silly little maid” and you’ll be quite right.’

19 February 1913
‘Got my wireless. I was sitting on deck after breakfast not feeling very well [she had her period]. The captain came and said he wanted to speak to me in his room. It didn’t occur to me in the slightest what he wanted but I went. Poor old chap’s hands were trembling when he said “I’ve got some news for you but I don’t see how I can tell you.” I said “The Expedition?” and he said “Yes”. “Well,” I said, “Let’s have it” and he showed me the message which ran “Captain Scott and six others perished in blizzard after reaching S Pole Jan. 18th.” I remember I said without the least truth “Oh well, never mind, I expected that - thanks very much - I’ll go and think about it” and I went downstairs.’

28 December 1915
‘I came back from Vickers to find the PM had been twice. He wrote later saying he had tramped the streets waiting for me, as he was “in great need of me”. I did wish I hadn’t been out. However he came again the next evening. There is great dissension in the cabinet about conscription [Asquith was trying to introduce conscription for single men because not enough of them had volunteered for him to be able to to keep his promise not to make married men join up] and today McKenna [Reginald, Chancellor of the Exchequer], Runciman [President of the Board of Trade], Grey [Foreign Secretary] and John Simon [Home Secretary] have all resigned. He showed me the letters - Grey’s stupid and selfish, I thought - 2 sheets saying that as close friends of his were leaving, he must too; that his eyes are bad, and he had thought of resigning before. A childish effusion, but saying that he had not conspired with his friend Runciman. Simon’s letter was a very dear nice letter, brokenhearted at having to abandon the PM but convinced that forcing anyone is wrong. Runciman and McKenna were excited and not very nice; McK saying we couldn’t afford the enlarging army and Runciman saying he couldn’t spare the men from industry - as the PM pointed out this is not the moment to discuss either issue. The compulsion of unmarried men does not fix the size of the army, not [sic] does it prevent the staying of those requisite for trade. The PM was very very sad, he said he had come to me for two things, 1) wisdom 2) sympathy. I told him I could dispense the second but not the first, however I was awfully touched and flattered. He said I was one of the only discreet women he’d ever met, and told me I helped him enormously. That night he wrote me a little letter saying I made “all the difference”. Poor darling how he hates these tussles.’

20 September 1916
‘. . . The war has sucked up so much of what was most loveable and full of promise, [Asquith wrote to Kathleen] that I have always been haunted by a fear that a toll would be exacted from me also. But when I saw him last - exactly a fortnight ago today - he was so radiantly strong and confident that I came away from France with an easier mind . . . Whatever pride I had in the past, and whatever hope I had for the future - by much the largest part of both was invested in him. And now all that is gone. It will take me a few days more to try to get back my bearings . . .’

29 September 1917
‘We had a dinner party, oh such a funny dinner party! There were Stephen McKenna, Gilbert Cannan, Sidney Russell Cooke, Geoffrey Dearmer and me. In the middle a very bad air raid started. A strange girl came in who was going to dance later. The parlour maid came in hysterical and collapsed on the drawing room sofa. The cook panted behind, and Wink [Peter’s nanny] arrived with her hair down. We fetched Pete down in his pyjamas - we were a mottled party. First we watched from the balcony then we shut shutters, lit lights and Sidney turned on the pianola. Gilbert never uttered a word. Stephen sat and made magic - ‘evil magic’, he said. Sidney and I sustained animated conversation, to which Pete contributed a good deal of sound information about aerial matters. More people came as the night went on, and we danced until three am.’

3 September 1926
‘Very sadly left the Lacket leaving behind me my two little sons. As they both stood by the little gate in the sun to see me off I had to work very hard not to weep at the sheer beauty of them with their sun-bleached hair and their russet skin, my big one and my little one, each looking healthier than the other . . . It’s so insane but I never leave either of them without thinking ‘There, I shall probably never see them again’. These feelings are disgustingly morbid.

15 February 1928
‘Asquith died early this morning. It’s odd I’ve had two weeks to prepare, I knew on Feb 1 that he wouldn’t live, and yet now he’s actually dead I feel all upheaved. He certainly was for some years a very large thing in my life. Probably it was more the excitement of discretion that was so thrilling, more than his actual love. It was a marvellous acrobatic stunt knowing everything that the Prime Minister knew during the War and yet not only not talking, but not letting anyone know I knew. Even Violet who I saw constantly I know had no notion that I was seeing him almost daily for several years. I can’t write to anybody to say I’m sorry. Indeed I’m not, I have wanted him to die for ten years. It’s rather a bore I can’t write to him. To him of 12 years ago.’

26 March 1930
‘I think the way you pay for even falling in love with someone other than your mate is that it lessens and weakens the pleasure you take in your mate, and therefore maybe my natural self protection of my hedonism would prevent [my] succumbing to the ephemeral attractions of beautiful young creatures who encircle one with flattery and cajolery.’

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Lieber’s Life and Letters

‘Yesterday and the day before, serious riots against the negroes. This evening they assembled to defend themselves. I went to see them. They were an uncommonly fine set of people, well formed and well dressed. There were white men there ready to assist them; the soldiers out. The mayor told them to be quiet, but if they were nevertheless attacked, to fight like good fellows. . .’ This is from the diary of Francis Lieber, born in Prussia 220 years ago today. He emigrated to Boston, and, in time, lay the foundations for academic political science in America, and its application to public life. Despite spending many years in the South, he was strongly opposed to slavery; he was also an ardent supporter of the Unionists, and during the Civil War was consulted frequently on legal issues.

Franz (later Francis) Lieber was born into a large family on 18 March 1798 in Berlin, then the capital of Prussia. In 1815, he interrupted his studies to volunteer for the Prussian army. He fought in the battles of Ligny and Waterloo, but was seriously wounded in the assault on Namur, and nearly died. After the war, he resumed his studies in Berlin. But he was an active member of the liberal student movement, which opposed the monarchy, which led to him being imprisoned and then barred from studying at a Prussian university. Instead, he crossed the border to Saxe-Weimar and enrolled at the University of Jena, where he obtained a degree in 1820. He moved to Dresden to take up further studies, but was drawn to fight, briefly, in the Greek War of Independence. He then spent one year in Rome tutoring the son of the Prussian ambassador, historian Barthold Georg Niebuhr, and writing about his experiences in Greece.

On the promise of a pardon, Lieber returned to Germany, yet he was soon imprisoned again. Subsequently, in 1825, he travelled to England, where he remained for two years, tutoring and writing for German periodicals. But, failing to secure an academic position, he crossed the Atlantic, armed with letters of introduction from Niebuhr, and settled in Boston where, initially, he ran a pioneering gymnasium and swimming school. In 1829, he married Matilda Oppenheimer (one of his former pupils in London, and the daughter of a German-born businessman). They had three boys.

By this time, Lieber had taken on the huge task of editing the 13-volume Encyclopaedia Americana, published between 1829 and 1833. For a while, he acted as a research assistant for Alexis de Tocqueville who was on a French mission to investigate the US penal system (see also Perfect order that prevails); and he published various pamphlets and essays, as well as translations from French and German. In 1835, he finally secured an academic position when South Carolina College offered him a new chair in history and political economy. He remained there for over 20 years, producing some of his best known works: Manual of Political Ethics (1838-1839), Legal and Political Hermeneutics (1839) and Civil Liberty and Self-Government (1853). Having been pardoned by Frederick William IV of Prussia, he undertook two journeys back to Europe, including Berlin, in the 1840s.

In the mid-1850s, Lieber fought to be chosen to replace the outgoing president of South Carolina College, even though his personal views (opposing slavery and anti-secession) were unpopular in the South. His bid was unsuccessful, so he resigned and moved to New York City. There he soon secured an appointment as professor of history and political science at Columbia College, where, among other things, he lectured on constitutional law. In the run-up to the Civil War, he founded the Loyal Publication Society which issued tracts for the Unionist cause. During the war, he was frequently consulted by the War Department in Washington DC on legal issues, and he authored important legal works such as Guerilla Parties, Considered with Reference to the Law and Usages of War and Instructions for the Government of the Armies of the United States in the Field.

After the war, Lieber continued writing on political issues, urging, fro example, free trade and civil liberties. He served in the War Department, helping organise captured Confederate archives, and from mid-1869, he acted as a diplomatic negotiator between the US and Mexico. The Civil War had been personally tragic for Lieber as two of his sons fought for the Unionists, and one, who was killed, for the Confederates. Lieber himself died in 1872. Steven Alan Samson provides this assessment of the man in the journal Humanitas (Volume IX, No. 2, 1996) as found on the National Humanities Institute website: ‘Unaccountably neglected for over a century, Francis Lieber, one of the first university-trained German scholars to migrate to America, served as a bridge between the intellectual and political cultures of Germany, England, and America. While cultivating an astonishing range of activities and interests, Lieber helped lay the foundation of academic political science in America and promoted its practical application to public affairs. His theory of institutional liberty, which attributes the rise of civil liberty to the development of an increasingly integrated complex of self-governing institutions, may be his most original contribution to the political science literature.’ Further information is also available online at Wikipedia, History of Economic Thought, Library of Congress, or The New York Times.

Ten years after his death, in 1882, the publisher James R. Osgood brought out The Life and Letters of Francis Lieber as edited by Thomas Sergeant Perry. The book is, essentially, a compilation of extracts from Lieber’s diaries (intermittently kept between 1816 and 1857) and letters, with a connecting narrative by Perry. This can be freely read online at Internet Archive or Googlebooks. Here’s a selection of extracts from Lieber’s diaries as reproduced by Perry.

18 September 1822
‘Went with Niebuhr and his family to Albano, to the palace of the Consalvi. Beautiful sunset and view of the sea. Marcus already says: “Il tuo caro Mare, il tuo Mare.” Pleasant reception at the palace. From my window a view of the town, Monte Sevello, the plain, and the sea. I thought, during these two weeks in Albano, I could forget everything connected with my experience in Greece, and breathe freely for a short time; and now comes the “Diario di Roma,” confirming the rumor that R. is in Argos.’

20 September 1822
‘With Niebuhr, Amalie, and Marcus to the Rotunda. The church door is ornamented with a beautiful frieze. Niebuhr thinks the old walls we saw were part of a bath built for the Germans in the time of Domitian.

Niebuhr says nothing can be accomplished for the welfare of Italy until the priesthood is suppressed. This could be done gradually by allowing the monks to leave the cloisters with a pension. If a whole cloister should disperse, a certain sum should be divided among the monks in proportion to the income of the cloister. The princes, for instance the Chigi and their descendants, might be taxed for this purpose.’

22 September 1822
‘Went early in the morning on horseback to Ariccia, Genzano, and Velletri. This is the capital of the ancient Volscians, and is beautifully situated on a hill. By way of Giullianello to Cora - cyclopean walls, Temple of Castor and Pollux. Bought Niebuhr a knife which had only been used at sacrifices in time of peace.’

14 June 1823
‘A delightful interview with the great artist Cornelius, whom I found surrounded by his pupils and full of hope for the growth of art in Germany. His wife is a charming woman, so full of her recollections of Rome that we naturally found much to talk about, and it was a great enjoyment to me. Cornelius is finishing his Olympus, and means to begin upon his Neptune. He says the work of Giulio Romano at Mantua is full of original Ideas, equal for originality to Raphael in the Farnesina.’

28 June 1826
‘With Rouquette to the British Museum; meagre, with the exception of the Elgin marbles. What a delight to see these! . . .’

7 July 1826
‘Went to see the Tunnel, a most remarkable work, worthy of the old Romans. . . Mr. Greaves offers me a situation near Plymouth. He is secretary of an infant-school society. We shall see. “No history. We don’t care about history.” I meet everywhere with great kindness; tickets to the Dulwich Gallery are given to me, also to Lord Stafford’s collection, which is not open to the general public.’

15 September 1826
‘With Mr. Greaves to the Refuge of the Destitute, where he wishes me to give instruction in gymnastic exercises gratis. This is a good idea, and I am willing to do it.’

19 October 1826
‘A note inclosing £10, and the words in a disguised handwriting, “Won in a wager by an absent friend,” is sent to me by two-penny post. I cannot find out from whom it comes.’

3 October 1829
‘Arrived in Boston. Many visitors to welcome us. We unpack the large chest from Hamburg. Ce sont les plaisirs de mariage.’

6 December1829
‘Preparing my lecture for the Boston Society of Useful Knowledge.’

14 February 1830
‘I write down my plan for a geographical, statistical, and ethnographical periodical. Letter from Carey. He says he has already printed four thousand copies of the first volume of the “Americana.” ’

30 September 1830
‘Ashton, my famous barber-philosopher, said to-day: “Whenever I go to a sick person I get half a dollar. From poor people I never take anything, never; but then I don’t go to them.” We see a great deal of De Beaumont and De Tocqueville.’

11 October 1830
‘Was introduced to the President. He has a noble, expressive countenance; invites me to dinner on Thursday. . .’

19 October 1830
‘The meeting [in New York, about founding the University of the City of New York] was satisfactory. When I came into the room with Doctor Wainwright I was received with the words that they had heard I was to speak on German Universities, and all were anxious that the meeting should be opened by my exposition; so I read my remarks and thanks were voted to me, and the whole matter was referred to the committee of arrangement for farther consideration. Then I spoke freely in reply to some questions, and I felt how bold I was with my poor English. I dine to-day at Mr. Gallatin’s; you know whom I mean, the former minister to London. I feel quite clerical among all the reverend black-coats.

20 January 1832
‘Birth of a little daughter. I send the second part of my article “Napoleon” to Joseph Bonaparte
 [elder brother of Napoleon]. . .’

14 May 1832
‘Letter from Joseph Bonaparte. He says that the article on Napoleon in the Americana is the freest from all prejudice and most truthful of all he had ever read on the subject.’

4 August 1832
‘Swam in the swimming-school with Mr. Audubon, the ornithologist, who has just returned from Florida, where he shot birds and painted for his large work. He discovered many new birds, and is now going to the Bay of Fundy, whence an English revenue cutter will take him to Labrador. On these expeditions he lives like a savage, shooting and fishing, and immediately painting whatever new bird he meets with. This must necessarily produce a valuable work. Doctor Spurzheim is staying at our boarding-house in Boston; he has many very correct ideas. . .’

4 October 1834
‘I have suffered much in these days. I cannot yet write without a bleeding heart. Sent yesterday my “Letters” to Murray in London, with my conditions, and the “United States Gazette” containing my biography.’

14 August 1835
‘Yesterday and the day before, serious riots against the negroes. This evening they assembled to defend themselves. I went to see them. They were an uncommonly fine set of people, well formed and well dressed. There were white men there ready to assist them; the soldiers out. The mayor told them to be quiet, but if they were nevertheless attacked, to fight like good fellows. . .’

14 October 1835
‘It is painful to write in a journal alter hopes have been blighted, of which the preceding pages show so many traces, and when we are living in a particularly dull period; but I must take courage, and who knows how, some time or other, these very pages may become interesting to us. My work goes very slowly through the press. . .’

20 July 1855
‘Again in Philadelphia. Made the acquaintance of Allibone, writer of the “Critical Dictionary of English Literature.” He has an excellent library for it. He rises early, writes until ten o’clock, from ten to one is at his counting-house, and writes again until late in the evening. He is a merchant, and does a large business. How curious and interesting. He spoke to me always as one of his “teachers;” has studied my “Political Ethics,” and my “Pardoning Paper” attracted him much. He was present at the convention where it was first read. . .’

18 May 1857
‘Unanimously elected Professor of History and Political Science in Columbia College. Immense number of letters of congratulation and papers; North and South speak highly of the appointment. House-hunting all the time.’

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Pictures and vaudeville

‘Went to Loew’s theatre to-day and it’s allright. They had moving pictures and vaudeville. Gosh the acrobats were swelling fat with muscles and they bounded around like monkeys.’ This is from the adolescent diary of Reginald Marsh, an American social realist painter, born 120 years ago today. Although he started his career as an illustrator and cartoonist (the diary is full of cute drawings), he went on to become famous for his depictions of New York life, not least vaudeville scenes.

Reginald Marsh was born on 14 March 1989 in Paris. His father, a muralist, and his mother, a miniaturist painter, were both well-off Americans. They returned to the US, to Nutley, New Jersey, when Reginald was two years old. He attended Lawrenceville School, and he graduated from Yale University in 1920. On moving to New York in search of free lance illustration work, he was employed to sketch performers for the New York Daily News. He also began taken classes at the Art Students League of New York, where the Ashcan painter John Sloan was one of his teachers (see also Make the draperies move). In 1923, Marsh married fellow student Betty Burroughs (who went on to become a sculptor).

Marsh was one of the first cartoonists taken on by The New Yorker which launched in 1925, and he remained a contributor for nearly 20 years. Also in 1925, he travelled to Paris and was much inspired by the Old Masters and Renaissance painting principles. From the early 1930s, he became well known for his paintings of New York - especially of vaudeville shows, the burlesque stage, street life in the Bowery district, and Coney Island scenes - which often displayed a sense of gritty social realism, somewhat at odds with his affluent background. Among his most important paintings are Why Not Use the “L”? (1930), Tattoo and Haircut (1932), and Twenty-cent Movie (1936). In 1935, he decorated in fresco the Post Office Building in Washington, D. C., and the Custom House in New York City. Around this time, he divorced Burroughs and married Felicia Meyer, a landscape painter.

During the 1940s, Marsh became a teacher at the Art Students League of New York (one of his students being Roy Lichtenstein), and he began drawing for magazines such as Esquire and Life. He was awarded the Gold Medal for Graphic Arts by the American Academy and the National Institute for Arts and Letters. He died, shortly after, in 1954, struck down by a heart attack. There seem to be no published biographies of Marsh, and there is not a wealth of information about him online either - but Wikipedia has a substantial article, and there are short entries at the Smithsonian American Art Museum website, Encyclopaedia Britannica, and

Marsh kept a variety of notebooks and diaries throughout his life, although most of these are sketch books or appointment diaries, not personal journals. A comprehensive listing of his diaries can be found in the finding aid compiled by Jennifer Meehan for the Archives of American Art (the largest collection of primary resources documenting the history of the visual arts in the US, housed in the Smithsonian Institute). The finding aid says this about the diaries:

Marsh’s adolescent diaries date from 1912 to 1913 and from 1916. The 1912 diary is the most complete, with daily entries for the entire year. The 1913 and 1916 diaries are composed of almost daily entries for the months of January and February, but are blank for the remaining months of each year. Adolescent diaries primarily record Marsh’s daily outdoor activities (such as skating, sledding, and coasting in the winter, and playing tennis and swimming in the summer) with friends including Lloyd Goodrich, the day’s weather, his studies, illnesses, and outings to the theater (to see movies and vaudeville shows). Diaries also allude to his artistic activities, such as painting and drawing a weekly cartoon for The Nutley Bulletin, and include some illustrations and sketches.

Marsh’s art work diaries date from 1929 to 1933. Each diary consists of an “index” of the art work referred to therein, including title, date, and page numbers for relevant entries, and dated entries, comprising notes about the particular art work on which he worked that day. His notes typically include information about dimensions, methods and techniques used, time worked, what was drawn, and/or what prints were made. These diaries document the work he carried out, as well as the way in which he worked, on his paintings and prints during this time period. Similar notes for the time period from 1935 to 1944 can be found in the art notebooks.

Marsh’s engagement diaries, dating from 1935 to 1954, and desk calendars, dating from 1931 to 1934, seem to have been used to keep track of and record his daily events and activities. Rather than typical diary entries, these comprise daily, weekly, and/or monthly calendars with brief notes on the events and activities of any given day, including meetings, classes, appointments, dinners, outings, and trips. In general, engagement diaries provide a sense of the range of artistic activities in which Marsh was involved, his interactions and associations with other artists, and the time he spent involved in teaching and other art-related endeavors. Of particular note, the “Little Red Book” diary from 1937 records Marsh’s work on the mural for the New York Customs House; the one from 1938 records his work on drawings for the book, Sister Carrie; and the one from 1943 records his trip to Brazil as an artist correspondent, which included a broken arm and time spent in hospital.

In 2006, Archives of American Art scanned the bulk of Marsh’s paper, including eight diary-like books, for the years 1912, 1913, 1916, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1932 and 1933, and images of all these are available online. But, as described in the finding aid, it is only the 1912 book that comes close to being a full journal, albeit an adolescent one, and one with many little sketches that already show a precocious talent. The 1912 journal has been fully digitised recently, and is now available online as a pdf. Here are a few extracts.

8 January 1912
‘At 2.30 in the afternoon I went back to school for a physical examination. I am 4 ft 9 1/2 inches high and weigh 82 1/2 lbs. It began to snow and it kept up all the afternoon maybe all night. I bought a hockey stick for 25¢ over at Ciccone’s and I burned my name on it. I got out my sled and hitched on the grocery and had a delivery ride for about 2 hours around town.’

10 January 1912
‘At 2:30 I skated down along the rode to Kingsland’s pond. It was slick as glass and as smooth as glass. I can skate better each time I go. After while quite a big bunch came after a while. The big fellows skated classy all going along hitching on to each other. Prattie came. He can’t skate because he has only skated a few times in his life. My subjects in school are Latin I Algebra I
English I Ancient History I.’

11 January  1912
‘Went coasting up in Nutley Park. All covered with ice. Jut and I went down on my sled. We went about 30 miles an hour. Later Merril Wright and I went over on Nutley Avenune. Starting up at the top the hill and going as far as the Passaic River, a distance of about of a mile. We coasted down there twice and it was great The Passaic r. is all frozen over. I guess it is skatable. After a while Don Blankhorn with his pop gun went up to Wright’s and played pool. Ice is all over the sidewalks and roads. Slippery as the dickens.’

20 January 1912
‘Some swift coasting now in Nutley Park. In the morning I coasted some but not much. In the afternoon Jut and I went over to the resevoir, about a mile from here to skate. It was swell. The weather was warm and the ice was perfect. I can skate better now. Jut bought a hockey stick and we skated up and down the pond played a little hockey and got sore and and sore backs. We skated all the way across the golf course.’

21 January 1912
‘I did’nt go to Sunday School this morning but in the afternoon Jut and I went skating over at the resevoir. It was slick and a big crowd was there skating and looking on. 5 Germans were there skating fancy in circles. A bunch of fellows would “snap the whip” in a long line hanging on to each other. Some boobs about 20 of them took hold of hands and skated along and snapped the whip. I skate better every time I go.’

23 February 1912
‘Jack Wilson came down because he had played hookey from school. We went down to the rain pond which had lowered five inches. It was covered with thin ice. Jack took a sled and coasted on it and went plunging into a hole and cut his hands badly then he ran out. On one part of the pond we walked on with safety when it got weak and awful pompey. Jack went in a lot of places up to his knees in water.’

11 March 1912
‘Back to school and out again. Went on my wheel up to Goodrich’s and was up in Will’s room with Will, Lloyd, and Winton when Jut sneaks me out without notice. We rode down back of the shooting club and got a bunch of pussy willows. We brought them home and then watched the kids playing marbles. I played Jerry and beat him a couple with Jut’s heavy steel ball bearing shooter I used.’

2 April 1912
‘Rainy day. I got a haircut. Nothing doing all the afternoon.’

5 April 1912
‘GOOD FRIDAY I went to New York this morning and bought two Norfolk suits at Rogers Peet. I bought a hat at Mcreery and a five store hunt. I reached home at 2.30 and changed my clothes. It was really hot. I met Jack Wilson and we went down at the brook. I caught a snake and bought 1/2 dozen hot cross buns. We went down to the brook and two little kids jumped in the quick mud. A few kids came around and meanwhile the little kids were jumping in the mud until it had reached their knees.’

26 June 1912
‘I forgot what I did today. There’s a bunch of great strawberries in the field which I partially ate. Lloyd’s painting his skiff lead color.’

29 July 1912
‘Bill came down and helped me a door blue. It rained a little and we went swimming off the float. It cleared up in the afternoon and so I went for a sail with four of the Goodrich’s in the “Aspenet” a sailboat not large. I don’t mean the hole family because there are only 7 without the relatives or ancestors. The Goodrich’s I went with ranged from about 17 to 23 years of age - all girls except Will who sailed the boat. We sailed out in the ocean 3 or 4 miles, got a soaking and when we came back we got stuck letting down the anchor.’

30 July 1912
‘I worked painting nearly all the morning painting things. Afterwards Bill & I went for a swim off the float and we took a swim around. Nothing special doing in the afternoon. Saw a fellow get hit with a rotten egg so he fell in the water and washed it off being in swimming.’

31 July 1912
‘I took an early morning plunge and worked nearly all of the morning. Bill came down and we took a swim off the float and afterwards watched the other kids go off. In the afternoon he and I went to the Commons and watched a ball game between the Little Comptons and the Y.M.C.A.C’s. Little Compton beat 4-3. Afterwards there were athletics out in front of the Methodist Church which was having a fair. There were about 30 kids from the Y.M.C.A.C camp in west port. They had 100 yd dash, high and broad jumping, shot put, potato races etc. Gosh whenever one of the country jakes wanted to make tell when to stop he would holler “Whoa, whoa” as if he were a horse. I guess it was so because they are used to driving them.’

20 August 1912
‘Had an exciting game of croquet. Ralph, Phillip Arnold & I stood Jack and Lloyd and we won. Gee it was great. Afterwards we all went swimming off the float.’

23 August 1912
‘Played part of a round of golf with Winton and did worse and better. Jack won the cup in the Junior tournament. I made a monkey out of a peach stone.

24 August 1912
‘Swim at Warren’s this morning and it was so rough that we couldn’t go off the rocks. I nearly climbed to the top of the water tower down by the pond while Lloyd & Bill were fishing. At 5:30 there was a driving match on the golf course to see who could drive the farthest. I saw it. Bill goes hunting for woodchucks and water birds. I went with him this morning.’

11 September 1912
‘Saw our new house building which we are going to move in soon. I went to the N.R.H.S. for the first day this morning. It is a fine big school and I took French I, Latin II (Caesar), plane geometry and English II. Thunder storm in afternoon.’

22 October 1912
‘Went to Loew’s theatre to-day and it’s allright. They had moving pictures and vaudeville. Gosh the acrobats were swelling fat with muscles and they bounded around like monkeys. They handled each other and themselves as if they only weighed 2 pounds each. 5¢ admission to the peanut gallery and 25¢ a box.’

Saturday, March 10, 2018

La Pérouse at Easter Island

In 1785, the French naval captain, Jean-François de Galaup de La Pérouse, was charged by King Louis XVI to undertake a scientific voyage around the world. After more than two and a half years at sea, the expedition set off from Australia, exactly 230 years ago today, to visit several Pacific islands, soon to be homeward bound - but the vessels and crew were never seen again. However, prior to departing, La Pérouse, who was a conscientious journal keeper, had dispatched his journals and letters with a British vessel returning to Europe. His papers eventually found their way back to Paris, where they were soon published in the original French, and then translated into English.

Jean François de Galaup was born in 1741 in Albi, in southern France, (though his father later added ‘
de La Pérouse’ to their name after some land he owned). He was educated at the local Jesuit college, and then entered the naval college in Brest. He fought in the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763). For a while, he was stationed at Isle of France (now Mauritius) where he met his future wife, Eleonore Broudou. Around 1780, he was promoted to commodore; he gained naval successes off the Canadian coast at Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, in 1781, and Hudson’s Bay in 1782.

La Pérouse was chosen by Louis XVI and by the Secretary of State of the Navy, the Marquis de Castries, to lead a major scientific and geographic exploration around the world. With two frigates La Boussole and L’Astrolabe he left Brest in August 1785. His journey took him to Brazil, Chile, the Sandwich Islands, Alaska, California, Macao, the Philippines, Korea, Japan, and Siberia. Thereafter, the expedition sailed to the southern Pacific. Some of the crew were killed on the Samoa Islands, but the expedition made it to Botany Bay in Australia. Setting sail once more for New Caledonia and other Pacific islands on 10 March 1788, La Pérouse and all his crew were never heard of again. It seems, from evidence collected later, that they were killed on one of the Santa Cruz islands.

The Dictionary of Canadian Biography has this assessment of the man: ‘La Pérouse is representative of the most accomplished of the 18th-century sailors. An excellent navigator, a brilliant combatant, a humane leader with a mind open to all the sciences of his time, he was always able to combine to advantage prudence and audacity, experience and theory. As resourceful as he was indefatigable, as amiable as he was firm, he had a talent for making everyone like him.’ Further information is also available from Wikipedia, Spartacus or Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Throughout his voyage, starting in 1785, La Pérouse kept a journal. Fortuitously, while in Australia, he dispatched his journals, charts and letters in a British naval vessel heading back to Europe, and they were eventually brought to Paris. They were edited by M. L. A. Milet-Mureau in three volumes and published in 1797 in their original French language. This was translated into English the following year for publication as Voyage Round the World in the years 1785, 1786, 1787 and 1788 (and is freely available at Internet Archive). Much more recently, John Dunmore, a New Zealand-born historian and writer, has sought out the original papers, for a new two-volume edition published in 1994 by The Hakluyt Society as The Journal of Jean-François De Galaup de la Pérouse (reprinted by Routledge in 2011 - and on sale for £115!)

Dunmore records, in his preface, how he had some difficulty in tracking down La Pérouse’s manuscripts, but he also discusses why he persevered: ‘An expedition of such importance deserved recognition in the form of an annotated edition. James Cook had received the painstaking and devoted attention of J. C. Beaglehole, Bougainville’s journal was about to appear in a fine commemorative edition, Surville’s and J. R. Forster’s journals would soon follow: La Perouse could hardly be ignored. There was, of course, Milet-Mureau’s official publication of 1797, but there was no way to compare it with La Pérouse’s own writings. Even if Milet-Mureau had not taken the kind of liberties with the content and style that Hawkesworth had taken with Cook’s original journal, there was a dearth of acceptable footnotes. Milet-Mureau was neither a naval man nor a geographer; he was an army officer who had accepted the task of getting the manuscript ready for publication after several others, more qualified than him, had turned it down. He did his best, and the result was a credit to him, but his own style and indeed his own conclusions and preconceptions were everywhere apparent.’

And here is the beginning of La Pérouse’s own preface (as translated by Dunmore) in which he explains why he decided to keep a diary himself rather than delegate the task: ‘I could have entrusted the writing of my journal to a man of letters. It would have been in a purer style and sprinkled with reflections which would never have occurred to me; but that would have meant presenting oneself behind a mask, and one’s natural features, whatever they might be, seemed preferable. I have on several occasions regretted, on reading accounts of Captain Cook’s last two voyages, that he had borrowed another man’s pen for his first narrative. His descriptions of the customs, practices and art of various peoples left nothing to be desired, and the details of his navigation have always provided me with the enlightenment which I was seeking in order to guide my own: such advantages no editor can retain, and often the word which he sacrifices in order to create a more harmonious sentence is the one which a navigator would have preferred to all the rest.

Anyhow one cannot be attracted by such works without, at times, wishing to be in the traveller’s shoes, but at each line one meets only his shadow; and the actor who takes his place, although no doubt more elegant and more stylish, is an imperfect substitute. His various chapters were not written as the voyage proceeded; the outline of his navigation is evenly presented, although inevitably, being so vast and covering both hemispheres, it had undergone a thousand changes. His reflections lack the variations that arise out of the slightest events. In the end the man of letters shoulders aside the voyager, so to speak, and should he have his own preconceptions he will select from the journal only those facts which are likely to justify them. It was to avoid this danger that I refused all outside assistance.’

Here is one long extract from La Pérouse’s journal, early on in the expedition when he first sights Easter Island (taken from Dunmore’s edition, but for comparison see volume I of Milet-Mureau’s edition, page 527).

8-9 April 1786
‘On 8 April at 2 p.m. I saw Easter Island bearing from me W. 5d S. distant 12 leagues. The sea was very rough, the winds N. They had not been steady for four days, shifting from N. to S. by W. I do not believe that the proximity of a small island was the cause of these changes, and it is likely that the trade winds are not constant at this time of year in 27d. The headland in view was the E. point. I was on the exact spot where Captain Davis had come upon an sandy island and twelve leagues further on a land lying W. which Captain Cook and Mr Dalrimple believed was Easter Island rediscovered in 1722 by Roggewin, but these two sailors, although very well informed, did not sufficiently analyse what Waffer reported: he says (page 300 of the Rouen edition) that Captain Davis, leaving from the Galapagos with the intention of returning to Europe by way of Cape Horn and of putting in only at Juan Fernandez, felt a terrible blow in 12d of southern latitude and thought he had struck a rock; he had constantly kept to a southerly route and believed himself to be 120 leagues from the American continent; he later learnt that there had been an earthquake in Lima at the same moment. Having overcome his fear, he kept on S. to S.1/4S.E. and S.E. until he reached 27d 20’ and reports that at 2 a.m. a sound like a sea breaking on the shore was heard from ahead of the vessel; he hove to until morning and saw a small sandy island with no rocks around it; he came up to within a quarter mile of it and saw further off, 12 leagues to the W., a large land which was taken for a group of islands on account of breaks along it. Davis did not survey it and continued on his way to Juan Fernandez, but Waffer states that this small sandy island is 500 Ls from Copiago and 600 from the Galapagos. It has not been sufficiently pointed out that this result is impossible: if Davis, being in 12d of southern latitude and 150 Ls from the American coast, sailed S.S.E. as Waffer states, and obviously this buccaneer sailed with the E. winds which are very frequent in those waters, and taking into account his intention to going to Juan Fernandez island, there can be no doubt, as the Abbe Pingré has already indicated, that Dampierre’s calculations were wrong and that Davis Land, instead of being 500 Ls from Copiago, is only 200 leagues. It is therefore likely that Davis’s two islands are those of San Ambrosio and San Felix, a little further N. than Copiago; but the buccaneers’ pilots were not fussy and worked out their latitudes roughly to the nearest 30 or 40’. I would have spared my readers this little geography lesson if I had not had to oppose the views of two men deservedly famous; I must say however that Captain Cook was still unsure and says that if he had had time he would have solved the problem by sailing E. of Easter Island. As I covered 300 Ls along this parallel and saw no sandy island I think that no doubt should now remain and the question seems to me to be finally settled.

I sailed along the coast of Easter Island at a distance of 3 leagues during the night of 8 to 9 April. The sky was clear and in less than 3 hours the winds had veered from N. to S.E. At daybreak I made for Cook’s Bay - that is the one where one is best sheltered from the N. to S. by E. winds. It is only open to the W. winds and I had hopes that they would not blow for several days. At 11 a.m. I was only a league from this anchorage; the Astrolabe had already dropped anchor. I anchored quite close to that frigate, but the undertow was so strong that our anchors did not hold and we were forced to raise them and tack a couple of times to regain the anchorage.

This setback in no way lessened the natives’ enthusiasm. They swam behind us up a league offshore, and climbed aboard with a cheerfulness and a feeling of security which gave me the most favourable opinion of their character. A more suspicious people might have feared, when we set sail, to see itself torn from its relatives and carried away far from home, but the thought of such perfidy did not even seem to occur to them. They went about in our midst, naked and with no weapons, a mere string around the waist with a bunch of herbs to hide their natural parts.

Mr Hodgés, the painter who had accompanied Captain Cook on his second voyage, has very inadequately [sic] reproduced their features. Generally speaking they are pleasing, but they vary a great deal, and do not have, like those of Malays, Chinese or Chileans, a character of its own. I made them various gifts. They preferred pieces of printed cloth, half an ell in size, to nails, knives or beads, but they greatly prized the hats of which we had too few to give to more than a very few. At 8 p.m. I took my leave of my new guests, making them understand by signs that I would be going ashore at dawn. They returned to their canoes, dancing, and jumped into the sea when within two musket shots from the shore over which the sea was breaking strongly; they had taken the precaution of making small parcels with my gifts, and each one had placed his on his head to protect it from the water.’

The Diary Junction

Friday, March 9, 2018

Wedekind’s erotic life

‘[Katya]’s wearing a brand new silk dress from the Louvre that’s too short for her and hence fastened up with a hundred pins. The opening is even sewn askew. I demolish the entire contraption and dump her into bed. In spite of the good supper with champagne, I can’t manage more than a couple of tributes: her confounded practice of refusing to take off her underclothes may be to blame for that.’ This is from the diaries of Frank Wedekind, a German playwright, a libertarian and forerunner of the Expressionism movement, who died a century ago today. Not well known in the English-speaking world, a few of his plays have been translated and published recently, and his Diary of an Erotic Life was published in 1990.

Benjamin Franklin (Frank) Wedekind was born in 1864 in Hannover to a Swiss actress mother and a German father twice her age. He grew up in his father’s Swiss castle, one of six children. He started work at 19, having dropped out of university, first as a journalist, then as a press agent, and then as a private secretary travelling extensively in France and England. By the mid-1890s, he had become an actor of sorts, giving public readings, in Switzerland, of Ibsen plays. A year or two later, he became political editor of Simplicissimus, a German satirical magazine. There followed a period in which he joined a touring company, producing and acting plays (also often Ibsen) through northern Germany, before he took on a similar role for the state theatre company in Munich at the Schauspielhaus.

By the 1890s, Wedekind, settled in Munich, was also writing his own material. First came Frühlings Erwachen in 1891 with such strong sexual content it was banned in Germany. (A hundred or so years later it was successful adapted into a Broadway rock musical, Spring Awakening.) The so-called Lulu plays would become his best known works: Erdgeist (Earth Spirit, 1895) and Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora’s Box, 1904). Most of his plays continued to challenge the prevailing bourgeois attitudes, particularly towards sex, sometimes causing scandal. Indeed, at one point earlier in his life he had served a short term in prison as a result of a lèse-majesté prosecution against Simplicissimus (Kaiser Wilhelm II had objected to an article by Wedekind). Apart from plays, Wedekind also composed (and performed) many Brettl-Lieder (cabaret songs).

Wedekind’s private life, 
associating with bohemian artists and political activists, was notoriously as libertarian as his writing. He enjoyed numerous relationships, and often visited prostitutes. He had an affair with the Austrian writer, Frida Uhl, who bore him a child in 1897 (she was already mother to one child by the playwright Auguste Strindberg). And he had another illegitimate child with his housemaid Hildegard Zellner. But, in 1906, he married an Austrian actress Tilly Newes, half his age, with whom he had two children. Their relationship was reportedly faithful though tempestuous. Wedekind died relatively young, from post-surgery complications, on 9 March 1918. Although much forgotten in the English-speaking world during the 20th century, he is back in print, perhaps because of the success of Spring Awakening. See Bloomsbury Publishing for translated plays currently available. For further biographical information see Wikipedia,, Spartacus, and Samuel A. Eliot’s introduction to his translation of four Wedekind’s plays - Tragedies of Sex (freely available at Internet Archive).

Eliot gives this assessment of Wedekind’s influence: ‘Though he died in March, 1918, he had incorporated in many a play before then both the sensational content and the free, direct, spasmodic form which German literature, especially German drama, was to show in the post-War turmoil and distress. Georg Kaiser and the other Expressionists so prized to-day can make no secret of their debt to him, and the wild rush they represent and play to - to contemplate man’s lowest impulses, the roots of will and feeling, the instincts, not the ideals that actuate confused and drifting peoples, and having studied them in crude, disordered life to set them down in baldest, swiftest speech, in rank but penetrating truth - this rush that is observed in all the Continental countries but most among the Germans did there alone possess a guide and prophet in the dead author, analyzer, wry and bitter thinker, Wedekind.’

Wedekind kept a diary at different times in his life, and surviving manuscripts were put together and edited by Gerhard Hay, and published in German for the first time in 1986. This work was translated into English by W. E. Quill and published by Basil Blackwell Ltd in 1990 as Diary of an Erotic Life. For the most part, Quill says in his preface, the original German publication includes ‘practically everything that survives in the way of Wedekind’s diaries and personal notebooks’. Some of these texts, he explains, had been published but many had not, and were only released by Wedekind’s daughter Frau Kadidja Wedekind-Biel in 1986. ‘The surviving diaries - whether in print or in manuscript - are discontinuous and at times fragmentary, but they do have a kind of fortuitous continuity as a series of mirrors reflecting the phases of the author’s development from the juvenile erotic skirmishes and fantasies of Lenzburg, through his years in Berlin and Munich, where he seems to have hovered diffidently on the brink of sexual adventure, to his time in Paris, where he celebrated his sexual coming of age.’

More from Quill’s preface: ‘Wedekind’s Diaries may perhaps best be left to speak for themselves: they are a plain record of a life largely devoted to social intercourse. It is indeed remarkable how unliterary they are as compared with the diaries of most professional writers. Wedekind very rarely writes about his current literary preoccupations in any detail. As he himself points out, the diaries had a kind of clinical function as a record of his responses to everyday experiences. They were intended to be a self-portrait, and this they certainly are to an almost embarrassing degree, portraying their author, piles, gumboils, false teeth and all. Given the emotive nature of many of the incidents described, they are remarkably dispassionate and objective. [. . .] Apart from recording Wedekind’s emotional and intellectual responses, the diaries seem to have served another purpose: the careful recording of social environment and behaviour, particularly evident in the graphic descriptions of cafe society in Munich, Berlin and Paris.’

I have not been able to track down any samples or extracts of Diary of an Erotic Life online, and the starting price for second hand copies is quite high, in the region of £50 - see Abebooks. One review - with quotes - can be found at The New York Times (the reviewer believes ‘the diary is full of detailedly, intimately, multifariously welcoming passages, far better than anything in Henry Miller or Frank Harris’). Here, though, are a few extracts from the 1990 print edition.

17 February 1887
‘I go to see Wilhelmine between two and three. Her sister is at home. When she goes off to her Women’s Guild at last, we are both glad to watch from the window as she departs. There are folk you prefer to see from behind rather than from in front, who cause you pain when you see them from the front, and pleasure when you see them from the back. I explain to Wilhelmine that this is the basis of Greek love. She cannot understand how a mind like mine which aspired towards the ultimate extreme could even reflect on such a serious matter. Then we talk about top-hats. If I ever want to cool her ardour, then I need only come to her wearing a top-hat. We would get married in an artist’s slouch hat, and divorced in a top-hat. As we part she begs me, if I have the smallest spark of feeling for her, to write her a poem by tomorrow. We intended to go to Aarau, and I should read it to her in the railway carriage. Gretchen comes for her piano lesson. Wilhelmine pushes me into the next room without a word and strangles me, so that I turn red and blue, then she returns with the maternal composure of a Madonna to the music-room, while I slink out of the house on tiptoe.

After supper I hunt through all my poems but can’t find anything suitable. I lie down full-length on the divan, but don’t manage to concentrate my thoughts on her. I fall asleep.’

3 May 1892
‘Sign my power of attorney at the Swiss Consulate, where Dr Stumm stamps me as a Swiss. Write to Mama. Dine with Katja and Weinhöppel, and discuss the Ballet Roquanedin at the Eden Theatre with him. Until two in the Pont Neuf, where we drink Baron Habermann’s health in Americain. Then I take the pair of them to an all-night cafe in the Halles, where Katja gets totally drunk. She refuses to take my arm, and I leave her to Weinhoppel, who trots out triumphantly with her into the Rue Montmartre. I keep out of sight and follow them about a hundred paces to the rear. Weinhoppel at last asks a passer-by, who directs him in the opposite direction. So they contrive to make their way over the Pont Neuf, which is just beginning to emerge in the first light of dawn, and get into the Boulevard St Germain, where they once more lose the track. They set out towards the Bastille. On the Boulevard St Michel they ask their way again and turn back the way they came. As they pass me, Katja asks me for her key. At the Eglise St Germain-des-Prés they lose their bearings once more and wait for me. I cross to the opposite pavement, they pursue me. I take refuge in a urinal and make them wait ages for me. Katja leans against a tree and starts crying. Finally they start walking round and round the urinal, come to the conclusion that I’m no longer inside, and set off again in search of the Rue Bonaparte. After wandering round for ages they return to my urinal, where I stick my umbrella out under the screen. They’ve finally found the right way. I once again follow them at a distance of a hundred yards, until Katja disappears in the entrance to the Hotel St Georges. Weinhoppel then comes up to my room. I go to bed about six.’

22 May 1892
‘I wait for Katja in a cafe. We take a cab to St Cloud, sit down in front of the restaurant, and drink until it’s time to go back. We dine together at Marguerite’s and then drive back to my room at one o’clock, where I invite her to get into bed. She’s wearing a brand new silk dress from the Louvre that’s too short for her and hence fastened up with a hundred pins. The opening is even sewn askew. I demolish the entire contraption and dump her into bed. In spite of the good supper with champagne, I can’t manage more than a couple of tributes: her confounded practice of refusing to take off her underclothes may be to blame for that. I don’t care in the least for her caresses. Her lips are flabby and she slobbers all over my face. I keep on pouring cognac into her, and the powerful aroma comes back at me. Elle me veut tailler une . . . , mais elle me mord les testicles que je crie par douleur. At the same time she keeps on making such clumsy attempts to address me in the familiar form that I simply can’t bring myself to reply in the same terms. Between four and five, in broad daylight, I take her home, and go to bed about seven.’

17 July 1892
‘I get up at nine o’clock and have just got dressed when there’s a knock. I draw the curtains in front of the alcove and ask Herr Weintraub to come in. He asks for 45 francs for copying the manuscript and spends an hour telling me how badly off he is. We read Hebrew together, and I serve him a schnaps. After he’s gone, I get back into bed with Rachel. We get up about four and go to lunch. She would simply love to go bathing with me in Chernetre, but I’m too lazy. We part after coffee.’

27 July 1892
‘Fetch Rachel from the Café d’Harcourt. She gets completely undressed in my room, apart from her vest, a diaphanous pink petticoat and her black stockings. In this outfit, with her hair let down and holding her black fan, she wallows around on my sofa between my guitar, my various fat lexicons and a couple of shapeless hessian cushions. She takes up one delicious pose after another, at the same time sucking down to the last drop a lemon which happened to be lying on the table. The lemon inspires her - and me as well - with lascivious ideas. After we’ve got into bed she sucks me off, which I can’t stand for long, as I find it drives me to utter distraction. The next morning she tells me she had dreamt about her mother all night. She had desperately wanted to suck her mother’s cunt. At first her mother wouldn’t let her, but then she had consented, and it had been so sweet, so sweet.’

25 January 1894
‘I go to the National Gallery and am furiously annoyed by the glass over all the pictures. After lunch I get on the Underground at Charing Cross and travel to the Tower, look round the museum, the most boring and tasteless I have ever seen, travel under the Thames via London Bridge and come back home through the underworld, dine at seven o’clock and take the omnibus to the London Pavilion. Apart from a couple of authentic English children, I find nothing new and very little that’s congenial. I spend some time in a bar amid a pack of frightful whores, and go to bed at twelve o’clock.’

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

I distrust the miller

‘I was at the mill and had 2 measures of wheat ground in my presence to see the result, because I distrust the miller.’ This is from the rich and colourful diary of Gilles de Gouberville, a squire in 16th century northern France who died 430 years ago today. He would have been long forgotten but for his diary which lay undiscovered for more than three centuries. Since its first publication in the 1870s, de Gouberville’s journal has been much studied by historians of old (pre-revolutionary) France. There have been no translations into English, but Katherine Fedden, an American novelist and translator, used it as the basis for her Manor Life in Old France.

Gilles Picot was born in 1521, the eldest son in a large family. His father was squire of Gouberville and Le Mesnil-au-Val, estates in the Cotentin (or Cherbourg) Peninsula of Normandy. Gilles took over administration of the estates in 1542, and, when his father died two years later, he became the squire. He never married, but he headed a household of more than a dozen, including servants, which was run domestically by his sister Guillemette, one of his father’s five illegitimate children. He died on 7 March 1578.

There is little further general information about Gilles de Gouberville - see Wikipedia or the website established by Le Comité Gilles de Gouberville - but there is a wealth of detail about his daily life for 13 years (1549-1562) thanks to surviving diary manuscripts. Journals for 1553-1562 were found by Abbé Tollemer in 1867, and published in the early 1870s as Journal Manuscrit d’un Sire de Gouberville et du Mesnil-au-Var, and then more simply as Le Journal du Sire de Gouberville - these editions (in French) can be read freely online at Gallica or at Internet Archive (bizarrely in two parts separated mid-sentence - see part one, two). A few years later, further journals were found and published as Journal de Gilles de Gouberville pour les années 1549, 1550, 1551, 1552. This is also available to read at Internet Archive. The journal has its own Wikimanche file (in French) with an excellent bibliography.

Although there has never been any English translation of de Gouberville’s journals, much about them, along with some quotes, can be found at the excellent World of Gilles de Gouberville website put together by Le Comité Gilles de Gouberville (which is also preparing a revised edition of the journal to publish online). It says: ‘The interest of his daily recordings lies in the meticulous description of his day-to-day life. His Journal allows us to study various aspects of the old regime (pre-revolutionary France) such as working in the fields, village sociability or the rural mentality in the Cotentin of the 16th century. Ever since it was first published at the end of the 19th century, Gille de Gouberville’s Journal has constantly been studied by historians who consider this “book of reason” as the most complete of its kind.’

An abundant selection of extracts from the journal translated into English can be found in Katherine Fedden’s Manor Life in Old France (Columbia University Press, 1933 - available at Internet Archive). Indeed, Fedden, an American novelist who went to live in France, has sub-titled her book From the Journal of the Sire de Gouberville for the Years 1549-1562. In her introduction she gives a brief description of the journal: ‘It belongs in the category of what are known in France as livres de raison; daybook best expresses it in English. It is something more than a journal, more than a book of accounts, a combination of the two; a family register in which the head of the house carefully noted the investment of his substance, the dates and details of all bargains and contracts, the facts of births, marriages and deaths, as well as the trivial events of the daily round. Such a family register is a complete evocation of a past day. Here are reflected the joys and sorrows of a household; here, too, is a faithful record of the material side of life.’

Fedden divides up her social history into topics - such as friend and neighbours, money and food, sport and recreation, wine and cider, hunting, sowing and reaping, etc. - and liberally sprinkles her text with translations of journal extracts, most of them usefully dated. However, the extracts are all snipped to suit the purpose of her chapter, and so it is not possible - at least without reference to the French original - to get a feel for the flow of content in the diary or the diarist’s daily routines across a week or month for example. Here, though, are several extracts as found in Fedden’s book (re-arranged into chronological order).

14 January 1552
‘Tonight, about eleven o’clock, I sent Francois Doisnard to my cousin de Brillevast and to Captain du Téil, with letters asking them to come to our aid for the choule [ball game] at Saint-Mor, tomorrow. I asked them to send me an answer before mass in the morning.’

15 January 1552
‘Saint Mor’s Day - Before I was up, Quinéville Groult and Ozouville, soldiers from the fort at Omonville, arrived here coming from Valognes. We breakfasted all together, then went to Saint-Mor, they, Cantepye, Symonnet, Moisson, Lajoye, Gaultier Birette and several others. We arrived there while they were saying mass, which said, Maitre Robert Potet threw the ball and the game went on till an hour before sunset and led us as far as Bretteville, where Gratian Cabart got it and won. In my party were my cousin de Raffoville, my cousin de Brillevast, Maître Guillaume Vasrel, de Reville, Captain Téil, Nicolas Gohel, Bouffart d’Orglandes and several others; and among our adversaries, Leparc, Arteney, Guillaume Cabart and their band as well as a few from Cherbourg. On our way back Cantepye stopped to supper with Jacques Cabart, because he had been into the sea after the ball and was very wet and changed his clothes at Rouxel’s at Bretteville. Passing by Cosmes du Bosc’s - Symonnet, Le Leurron, Moisson, Lajoye who led my horse, Nicolas Drouet, Jehan Groult, Lorimier and others - we stopped and had 4 pots of very good cider, 4 sols. It was dark when we got here.’

25 January 1553
‘Before I got up, Thomas Drouet came to invite me to his wife’s relevallies. I did not go, as I was expecting several people to dinner. After supper, Cantepye, Symonnet and Jehan Drouet, went there to porter le momon and stayed till midnight and Maître François was so drunk that he was covered with mud when he returned. Francois Drouet and Jehan Drouet put him to bed. Gaultier Birette had supper there and came back very gay. Jehan Groult remained, as he had drunk so much that he could neither speak nor walk. I went the next day to Drouet’s, as Jehan Groult was still there.’

14 April 1553
‘Symonnet and Morisseau went shooting and got a hare. It was dark when they returned and they said that they had heard Helquin the Huntsman in the old wood.’

19 July 1553
‘After holding court, I went to the Cordeliers, Cantepye with me, to get some pinks to make the Eau de Damas. Maistre Jehan Poulain gave me some calamus aromaticus (yellow iris) and Florentine iris (white iris) to add to the water.’

16 January 1554
‘Sent Lajoye to Tocqueville to fetch Martin Birette to choose millstones for my mill at Mesnil.’

24 September 1554
‘As some of my people were returning from La Boussaye, they found a young deer dead in the bushes. They had lost their way and were off the road. It had been killed yesterday by a crossbow. It was a four-year-old.’

16 November 1554
‘I was at the mill and had 2 measures of wheat ground in my presence to see the result, because I distrust the miller.’

9 December 1554
‘The boys here going in the evening to the Vallee du Grand Jardin had a greyhound with them, which took a young boar. When it was brought in and dried, I weighed it - a little more than 30 pounds.’

1 July 1555
‘Today, began to make the rose water and the pommade.’

4 October 1555
‘Symonnet took to the tax receiver a quarter of venison of a boar, which the boys took with the greyhounds in the big garden where it came to eat the apples.’

11 February 1556
’Symonnet went to the house of my godson de Raffoville and brought me the news that he is back from sea, where he has been for a month, and that he has taken prizes valued at 200,000 ducats and that he will be here to see me tomorrow.’

22 August 1558
‘As I was with my mowers, Chandeleur’s wife passed, coming here. She told me of the sorrow and trouble she had had over the body of her husband; she spent the night beside him where he fell, because the neighbors did not dare help her through fear of Le Parmentier and his son.’

11 December 1559
‘Sent 5 measures of barley and 2 of wheat to the mill and was at the mill until all the grain was ground.’

28 December 1560
‘Arnould went to Valognes to fetch the skins to make the boots for Symonnet and me. He brought back with him a young man named Nicollas from Lagarde, the shoemaker, to cut out the boots from the skins.

29 December 1560
‘Pinchon to Valognes to take the boots, the mules and the slippers that Lagarde’s man cut out yesterday.’

30 December 1560
‘[Pinchon] to take the Indian leather to make the soles of my boots, mules and slippers. . . . Sunday, jour des Rois, before I went to mass, servants arrived from Lagarde at Valognes, bringing me my boots, mules and slippers made from the leather I had given them. For red leather for the tops of my boots and for cork for the mules and slippers and for the making: 28 sols and 5 sols that I gave them for wine.’

10 July 1561
‘I bought from Grandin, lace for my shirts, and soap. . . .

10 August 1561
‘After lunch at Coutances, I counted what I had spent. I bought a comb, 2 sols; a pair of gloves, 12 sols. . .’

The Diary Junction

Monday, March 5, 2018

Dining at the Pavilion

Today marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Creevey, an English lawyer and politician who hobnobbed frequently with the Prince of Wales (before he became Prince Regent and then King George IV) in his Brighton Pavilion. He was an avid letter writer and diary keeper; although much of his diary was lost soon after his death, the parts that survived were published along with his letters as The Creevey Papers. Most of the following article is taken from my book Brighton in Diaries (History Press, 2011).

Creevey was born in Liverpool on 5 March 1768. His father died soon after the birth and his mother married again. He studied at Queens’ College, Cambridge, and then trained as a lawyer, but rose rapidly in the exclusive society of the Whig Party. In 1802, he married Eleanor Ord, a relation of Charles Grey, the future Prime Minister, and a rich widow with five children. The same year, he became a Whig MP in the House of Commons, and within a few years had been appointed Secretary to the Board of Control.

When, in 1811, the Prince of Wales became Prince Regent, the Whigs, including Creevey, were expecting him to favour them with government positions, but were much disappointed when he chose to retain the Tories appointed by his father. Creevey, who had been an enthusiastic visitor to the Prince’s table in Brighton, then ceased to be an intimate of the Royal. Increasingly, also, Creevey found himself at odds with the Whig leadership. When he stood as an MP for his home city Liverpool in 1812, he lost the election. To make matters worse, he was found guilty in a libel case, and consequently suffered heavy legal debts when trying to appeal.

The Creeveys moved to Brussels for five years, between 1814 and 1819, where Creevey came to know Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, and to be the first civilian to interview him after the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815. It was Creevey who recorded the Duke’s famous quote about the battle - ‘It has been a damned nice thing - the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life’.

In 1818, Creevey’s wife Eleanor died, and soon after he finally returned to England with his stepdaughters. He served in Parliament again, as MP for Appleby in the first half of the 1820s, but became less interested in political affairs, and more concerned with society and gossip. Prime Minister Grey, though, made him Treasurer of the Ordnance in 1830, and then Lord Melbourne made him treasurer of Greenwich Hospital in 1834. He died in 1838, having had no children of his own, and having lived the last decades of his life a relatively poor man. Further information is available online at Wikipedia, History of Parliament, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log-in required)

Charles Cavendish Greville, one of the best 19th century diarists (see The King’s bathing habits), wrote of him thus in 1829: ‘Old Creevey is rather an extraordinary character. [. . .] He possesses nothing but his clothes; no property of any sort; he leads a vagrant life, visiting a number of people who are delighted to have him, and sometimes roving about to various places, as fancy happens to direct, and staying till he has spent what money he has in his pocket. He has no servant, no home, no creditors; he buys everything as he wants it at the place he is at; he has no ties upon him, and has his time entirely at his own disposal and that of his friends. He is certainly a living proof that a man may be perfectly happy and exceedingly poor, or rather without riches, for he suffers none of the privations of poverty and enjoys many of the advantages of wealth. I think he is the only man I know in society who possesses nothing.’

Creevey is mostly remembered today for his letters and to a lesser extent his diary both of which provide a colourful and accurate source of information about politicians and royalty of the day. They were collected and edited by Sir Herbert Maxwell and published (two volumes) in 1903 by John Murray as The Creevey Papers - A Selection from the Correspondence & Diaries of the Late Thomas Creevey, MP. Both volume I and volume II are freely available at Internet Archive. Creevey had ‘an acute eye for absurdity’, says the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and is very good at describing the surface of events and places. However, it adds, he is incurious about the underlying processes shaping them; and it is a cartoonist’s talent, he has, sharp, but not deep or lasting.

Unfortunately, most of Creevey’s extensive diary was lost, possibly destroyed by his friends wanting to suppress the contents. Greville, again, explains how after Creevey’s death, some thought the publication of the journal and letters would be ‘painful and embarrassing to many people now alive, and make very inconvenient and premature revelations upon private and confidential matters’. Thus, though there are some diary entries in The Creevey Papers, the bulk of the book is made up of Creevey’s letters and Maxwell’s biographical commentary.

Here are a few of those diary entries, all taken from 1811 when Creevey was to be found often at the Pavilion in Brighton, still friends with the newly-empowered Prince Regent.

30 October 1811
‘Brighton. The Prince Regent came here last night with the Duke of Cumberland and Lord Yarmouth. Everybody has been writing their names at the Pavilion this morning, but I don’t hear of anybody dining there to-day. . . I presume we shall be asked there, altho’ I went to town on purpose to vote against his appointment of his brother the Duke of York to the Commandership-in-Chief of the Army.’

31 October 1811
‘We have got an invitation from the Regent for to-night and are going. I learn from Sir Philip Francis, who dined there yesterday, the Prince was very gay. . . There were twenty at dinner - no politicks - but still Francis says he thinks, from the language of the equerries and understrappers, that the campaign in Portugal and Lord Wellington begin to be out of fashion with the Regent. I think so too, from a conversation I had with one of the Gyps to-day - [Sit William] Congreve, author of the rocketts, and who is going, they say, to have a Rockett Corps. He affects to sneer rather at Wellington’s military talents. The said Congreve was at the same school with me at Hackney, and afterwards at Cambridge with me; after that, a brother lawyer with me at Gray’s Inn. Then he became an editor of a newspaper . . . written in favour of Lord Sidmouth’s administration, till he had a libel in his paper against Admiral Berkeley, for which he was prosecuted and fined £1,000. Then he took to inventing rocketts for the more effectual destruction of mankind, for which he became patronised by the Prince of Wales, and here he is - a perfect Field Marshall in appearance. About 12 years ago he wrote to me to enquire the character of a mistress who had lived with me some time before, which said mistress he took upon my recommendation, and she lives with him now, and was, when I knew her, cleverer than all the equerries and their Master put together.’

1 November 1811
‘We were at the Pavilion last night - Mrs Creevey’s three daughters and myself - and had a very pleasant evening. We found there Lord and Lady Charlemont, Marchioness of Downshire and old Lady Sefton. About half-past nine, which might be a quarter of an hour after we arrived, the Prince came out of the dining-room. He was in his best humour, bowed and spoke to all of us, and looked uncommonly well, tho’ very fat. He was in his full Field Marshal’s uniform. He remained quite as cheerful and full of fun to the last - half-past twelve - asked after Mrs Creevey’s health, and nodded and spoke when he passed us. The Duke of Cumberland was in the regimentals of his own Hussars, looked really hideous, everybody trying to be rude to him - not standing when he came near them. The officers of the Prince’s regiment had all dined with him, and looked very ornamental monkeys in their red breeches with gold fringe and yellow boots. The Prince’s band played as usual all the time in the dining-room till 12, when the pages and footmen brought about iced champagne punch, lemonade and sandwiches. I found more distinctly than before, from conversation with the Gyps, that Wellington and Portugal are going down.

The Prince looked much happier and more unembarrassed by care than I have seen him since this time six years. This time five years ago, when he was first in love with Lady Hertford, I have seen the tears run down his cheeks at dinner, and he has been dumb for hours, but now that he has the weight of the empire upon him, he is quite alive.  . . I had a very good conversation with Lord Charlemont about Ireland, and liked him much. He thinks the Prince has already nearly ruined himself in Irish estimation by his conduct to the Catholics.’

2 November 1811
‘We were again at the Pavilion last night. . . The Regent sat in the Musick Room almost all the time between Viotti, the famous violin player, and Lady Jane Houston, and he went on for hours beating his thighs the proper time for the band, and singing out aloud, and looking about for accompaniment from Viotti and Lady Jane. It was curious sight to see a Regent thus employed, but he seemed in high good humour.’

3 November 1811
‘I have heard of no one observation the Regent has made yet out of the commonest slip-slop, till to-day Baron Montalembert told me this morning that, when he dined there on Friday with the staff of this district, the Prince said he had been looking over the returns of the Army in Portugal that morning, and that there were of British 16,500 sick in Hospitals in Lisbon, and 4,500 sick in the field - in all, 21,000. It might be indiscreet in the Prince to make this statement from official papers, but he must have been struck with it, and I hope rightly, so as to make him think of peace.’

5 November 1811
‘We were at the Prince’s both last night and the night before (Sunday). . . The Regent was again all night in the Musick Room, and not content with presiding over the Band, but actually singing, and very loud too. Last night we were reduced to a smaller party than ever, and Mrs Creevey was well enough to go with me and her daughters for the first time. Nothing could be kinder than the Prince’s manner to her. When he first saw her upon coming into the drawing-room, he went up and took hold of both her hands, shook them heartily, made her sit down directly, asked her all about her health, and expressed his pleasure at seeing her look so much better than he expected. Upon her saying she was glad to see him looking so well, he said gravely he was getting old and blind. When she said she was glad on account of his health that he kept his rooms cooler than he used to do, he said he was quite altered in that respect - that he used to be always chilly, and was now never so - that he never had a fire even in his bedroom, and slept with one blanket and sheet only.’

6 November 1811
‘We were again at the Pavilion last night . . . the party being still smaller than ever, and the Prince, according to his custom, being entirely occupied with his musick.’

9 November 1811
‘Yesterday was the last day of the Prince’s stay at this place, and, contrary to my expectation, I was invited to dinner. We did not sit down till half-past seven, tho’ I went a little past six. [. . .] We were about sixteen altogether. The Prince was very merry and seemed very well. He began to me with saying very loud that he had sent for Mrs Creevey’s physic to London. . . At dinner I sat opposite to him, next to Ossulston, and we were the only persons there at all marked by opposition to his appointment of his brother the Duke of York, or to the Government generally, since he has been Regent. [. . .] We did not drink a great deal, and were in the drawing-room by half-past nine or a little after; no more state, I think, than formerly - ten men out of livery of one kind or other, and four or five footmen. At night everybody was there and the whole closed about one, and so ended the Regent’s visit to Brighton.

The editor of The Creevey Papers, Sir Herbert Maxwell, concludes this section of diary entries with a short comment: ‘And so, it may be added, ended Creevey’s intimacy with the Regent. Henceforward he acted in constant opposition to his future monarch’s schemes.’

The Diary Junction